Responding to calls for electoral reform from civil society organizations in Jordan, a national grassroots coalition led by the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR) has launched a first-of-its-kind media and advocacy campaign to push for improvements in the country's election system.
Over the past year, NCHR partnered with NDI to build the coalition, which is made up of more than 200 grassroots organizations and is the largest civil society coalition in Jordan. Following a year-long research and consensus-building process, the coalition issued 18 recommendations for reforming Jordan's electoral law, which it submitted to the Prime Minister.
If the government decides to move forward with electoral reform, which the Prime Minister has said could happen as soon as April, the Ministry of Interior would issue a new, temporary law on elections. According to the Jordanian constitution, the Ministry of Interior can pass temporary legislation — pending the King's approval — when the parliament is not in session or has been dissolved, as is now the case. The new temporary law would replace the current law.
The NCHR coalition is hopeful that the new law will incorporate civil society's recommendations.
Though parliamentary and municipal elections are held in Jordan at regular intervals, international organizations and Jordanian citizen groups have criticized the electoral process for lacking an independent election commission, failing to include women fully in the political process, and an absence of regulations restricting individuals from voting multiple times in different districts or temporarily registering and voting in districts where they are not residents.
Above all, the NCHR coalition is critical of Jordan's use of the single-non-transferable vote (SNTV) system, also known as a "one-person one-vote," where each citizen can cast only one vote for one candidate in districts where there are multiple seats to be filled. The SNTV system makes it difficult for some political parties or minority candidates to win seats, favoring instead community "strong men" who are already likely to win.
In an effort to deal with these problems, the coalition is offering its recommendations for electoral reform, which include establishing an independent election commission, replacing the SNTV system with a more representative system that gives more strength to political parties and minority candidates, and increasing the quota for women parliamentarians from six to 12 seats.
With King Abdullah's decision last November to dissolve the parliament and call for early elections sometime this year, NCHR's campaign comes at an especially critical time. With high participation in the advocacy campaign and positive media coverage, it appears that the recommendations have been well received by the Jordanian public.
The advocacy campaign was kicked off in January to educate the Jordanian public about the recommendations and to prompt ordinary citizens to join the effort to get them enacted.
By using a blend of strategies, such as online forums, e-discussions and distribution of campaign materials through grassroots networks, the campaign is setting a new Jordanian standard for reach and inclusiveness of grassroots advocacy. NCHR has developed five newspaper ads, three TV spots and a radio public service announcement that are airing in the national media. The campaign also designed other materials – 2,500 posters, 10,000 brochures and 1,000 calendars – that are being distributed around the country through its network of community groups.
During the first week of January NCHR team members traveled to and worked to engage groups in Wadi Rum, Aqaba and Karak by distributing campaign posters and leaflets and urging people at the grassroots to participate in on-line discussion forums.
In addition to media and face-to-face efforts, the campaign has a strong presence on the Internet. The campaign has a website and Facebook group whose membership of more than 800 individuals grows daily. This is coupled with an aggressive email outreach strategy that has reached over 160,000 Jordanians.
Prior to issuing the recommendations and launching the campaign, NCHR, in partnership with NDI, conducted 12 workshops and three regional conferences over the past six months. More than 500 participants from grassroots organizations, political parties, government and media contributed suggestions, opinions and advice on ways to improve voting and elections in the country, which was compiled to become the coalition's 18 recommendations for electoral reform.
Pictured above:A poster from the campaign encouraging the establishment of an independent agency for administering and supervising elections.
Published on March 3, 2010